‘Gay conversion’ therapies to be banned under new LGBT plan

Controversial gay conversion therapies are set to be banned by the UK Government. Picture: PA
Controversial gay conversion therapies are set to be banned by the UK Government. Picture: PA

Controversial gay conversion therapies are to be banned under a new LGBT action plan outlined by the Government.

The £4.5 million initiative aimed at making society more inclusive for the LGBT community brands so-called “gay cure” conversion therapies “abhorrent”.

The initiative follows a major Government survey which more than 108,000 LGBT people responded to.

The survey found that 2 per cent of respondents had undergone conversion therapy and a further 5 per cent had been offered it.

The action plan states: “We will consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy.”

The survey showed that LGBT people are experiencing prejudice on a daily basis, the Government said.

More than two in three of those who took part in the survey said they avoided holding hands with a same-sex partner in public for fear of a negative reaction, while 23 per cent said work colleagues had reacted negatively to them being

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LGBT, and over half of those who accessed or tried to access mental health services said they had to wait too long.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We can be proud that the UK is a world leader in advancing LGBT rights, but the overwhelming response to our survey has shone a light on the many areas where we can improve the lives of LGBT people.

“I was struck by just how many respondents said they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or avoid holding hands with their partner in public for fear of a negative reaction.

“No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love.

“This LGBT action plan will set out concrete steps to deliver real and lasting change across society, from health and education to tackling discrimination and addressing the burning injustices that LGBT people face.”

LGBT hate incidents had been experienced by 40 per cent of people in the survey, with more than nine in 10 of the most serious offences going unreported.

The plan aims to look into the scale of LGBT abuse online; improving mental healthcare for LGBT people with a focus on suicide prevention; combating homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools, and increasing awareness of the services available for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell welcomed the move on conversion therapy, but said the overall plan did not go far enough.

Mr Tatchell, who has been invited to attend a Downing Street reception for the LGBT community, said: “The biggest fail is the lack of any pledge to end the detention and deportation of LGBT+ refugees fleeing persecution in violently homophobic countries like Uganda, Iran, Russia, Egypt and Jamaica.

“Another big omission is the absence of any commitment to compensate gay and bisexual men who were convicted under past anti-gay laws.

“They suffered greatly, frequently being hit with huge fines.

“The £4.5 million budget is derisory and insulting.

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“It coincides with cuts in funding for sexual health clinics, which make it hard to get testing and treatment appointments.

“This is contributing to a rise in infections among gay and straight people.”

Laura Russell, of the LGBT campaign group Stonewall, said it was “heartbreaking” so many people had been offered conversion therapies, stating: “Our 2015 Unhealthy Attitudes report revealed that one in 10 health and social care staff across Britain witnessed colleagues express the dangerous belief that someone can be ‘cured’ of being lesbian, gay or bi.”

David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “The LGBT Action Plan, and the money behind it, is a positive step in the government’s commitment to improving LGBT rights.

“Britain now has a proud history of championing diversity and fighting intolerance and this is a real opportunity for us to live up to that reputation.”

A national adviser on reducing LGBT inequality will be appointed as part of the initiative.

Labour called on the Government to introduce legislation banning conversion therapies, make sexuality an aggravating factor in hate crimes and provide additional protections to trans people.

“We are glad that the Government is giving more attention to LGBT+ issues, especially in relation to health and education, but much of this plan is yet more reviews and consultations,” said Labour equalities spokeswoman Dawn Butler.

“After years of empty rhetoric and broken promises, we need to see concrete actions to show the Government is serious about tackling the inequalities faced by LGBT+ communities.”